FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn – With an accident fresh in the mind of Joe Bixler, it's fair time he gets to work.
“That accident brings more awareness,” Bixler says of the July 26th accident at the Ohio State Fair. A ride malfunction on the "Fire Ball" resulted in one person killed and seven others injured. Ohio Governor John Kasich called it the "worst tragedy in the history of the fair."
The ride was not inspected by Bixler or his team, but he says it brings up an important issue of more careful inspections.
“It’s because the problem was in a hidden area. It was an area there was corrosion inside of a piece of tubing. Very hard to see.”
Bixler and his team with International Leisure Consulting have been inspecting rides at the Minnesota State Fair for almost 20 years. According to State Fair Deputy General Manager Jim Sinclair, rides go through three rounds of inspections. Some are more than what Minnesota law requires.
Sinclair says rides are inspected when they arrive on the grounds then go through an electrical and utility inspection. On top of that, each ride is inspected every day.
“This is the number one thing we look at here. Safety. We look at, does the person have a safe ride and what is their track record. We will not compromise the safety and put guests at risk.”
Among the 60 rides on the midway and the kids midway, Sinclair says there are about 24 owners. Most are not Minnesota State Fair newcomers.
In 2012, the Stratosphere ride was stalled on the midway leaving riders 80-100 feet stuck in the air. No one was injured before riders were finally able to come off.